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Sharon Hunter - March 2022

How to choose a cemetery plot

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A graveside committal is a deeply poignant moment. Family may choose burial for any number of reasons. Cultural, religious, historical and even environmental reasons influence the decision to choose burial. Specific wishes may have been expressed in a funeral plan in which case the family will be clear on what to do.

If burial is right for your family, here are some guidelines on selecting a fitting cemetery.

How to find a cemetery

County and City websites are a great resource for lists of cemeteries in the local area. A quick online search will list the name of each cemetery and contact details.

The funeral home will also be able to assist with contact details for cemeteries.

Family ties

If there is a cemetery that the family has always used, the decision is fairly straightforward assuming availability of a burial plot. For this reason, some purchase a plot in advance. This might also be the case to enable partners to be buried side by side when the time comes.

Staying Local

Staying close to home enables friends and family to visit easily and often. For many, it’s the chance to care for the gravesite, place fresh flowers, and have a chat. The number of cemetery options will depend on the size of your town or city. If there is choice, then you might select a cemetery that has a long history, or one with immaculate gardens. Perhaps a hilltop view would feel fitting.

Cultural, religious, historical and even environmental reasons influence the decision to choose burial.

Going out Green

Natural (or green) burials place emphasis on environmental sustainability, which is the internment of the body in a manner that allows natural decomposition. The body must be free of embalming chemicals and placed in a biodegradable casket or shroud. There is no vault liner. The number of natural burial grounds in the United States is growing, and each has their own unique offering.

Burying at home

Under certain circumstances, burial on private property is permitted. This is generally if a private or public cemetery is some distance away, such as rural or country locations. You must own the property and get written permission from the county or city planning commission. A record must be kept as to where, and burials must be noted on the property title when selling. Historically, it was common for multiple generations to be buried in a private family burial plot.

Ongoing cemetery costs and upkeep

By law, most cemeteries are endowment care cemeteries. They are required to set aside a minimum portion of funds from the sale of each grave, crypt, and niche into an endowment care fund for maintenance and upkeep. Some cemeteries operate a different structure such as an association whereby endowment funds are invested and proceeds used for upkeep. Some cemeteries place a high priority on the upkeep of grounds and buildings, and spend more than the stated minimum. Visiting the cemetery ahead of purchasing is a good idea. If you have any concerns, request access to the maintenance and upkeep policy.

Ongoing cemetery costs and upkeep

At Great Goodbyes, we lean green. That means we advocate for options that are kinder to the planet. Burial vaults and grave liners are containers that line the grave before placing the casket inside. A burial vault is lined, sealed and waterproof, whereas a liner is not. They are commonly made of concrete but may also be made of plastic or metal and are an additional cost to the casket and interment fee.

In the late 1700’s more rigorous protection was required to safeguard against grave robbers. Secure burial vaults were popularized during this time.

Vaults and liners are not required by state or federal law. Cemeteries often specify vaults and liners citing land collapse as a reason. It reduces cemetery maintenance obligations. Look for cemeteries with plots that do not require liners or vaults.

Note: In the United States, 1.6m tons of reinforced concrete is placed in the ground every year through traditional burial.
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